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Press Release: Homewood Research Institute (HRI) Welcomes New Executive Director

GUELPH, ON, August 26, 2020 – A charitable, non-profit research institute working to save lives by improving mental health treatment in Canada will welcome a new Executive Director on September 1, 2020.

HRI works with some of the country’s top-ranked mental health and addiction scientists, building research networks and conducting studies to transform mental health and addiction clinical services. In a few short years, HRI has grown from a start-up to a nationally recognized research institute. Incoming Executive Director Dr. John Weekes will lead the charity through its next phase of growth.

Dr. Weekes comes to HRI from the Waypoint Research Institute at the Waypoint Centre for Mental Health Care in Penetanguishine, where he has served as Director since 2018. He holds adjunct academic appointments in clinical psychiatry and behavioural neurosciences at McMaster University, as well as in forensic psychology and addictions at Carleton University. Prior to his leadership role at Waypoint, Dr. Weekes spent nearly 30 years working with the Correctional Service of Canada in various clinical, research, and leadership roles. In 2018, he was awarded the Maud Booth Correctional Service Award by the Volunteers of America for his contributions to humanitarian corrections and criminal justice.

“We are thrilled that Dr. Weekes is joining the HRI team,” says Director and Chair of the HRI Board Dr. Ron Schlegel.

“Dr. Weekes is an expert in treatment outcome research. With specialties in evidence-based interventions and expertise in shaping federal legislation and mental health and addictions policy in Canada, we can’t think of a better candidate to guide HRI as the organization broadens its reach across the national landscape.”

Dr. Weekes is an associate scientist with the Forensic Psychology Research Centre at Carleton University, the Centre for Behavioural Sciences and Justice Studies at the University of Saskatchewan, and the Canadian Institute for Public Safety Research and Treatment at the University of Regina. He serves on advisory committees at the University of Saskatchewan and McMaster University, and he provides expert advice on drug policy and strategy to numerous governmental and non-governmental organizations.

“I’m excited and honoured to be joining the amazing team of scientists and trainees at Homewood Research Institute,” says Dr. Weekes.

“HRI is uniquely situated in the Canadian research landscape. Through its partnerships with leading universities, research agencies and institutions, HRI will continue to make major advancements in our understanding of contemporary mental health and addictions challenges to improve the lives of Canadians. This includes improving treatment outcomes, but also exploring innovative and pragmatic solutions to capacity limitations and barriers to the availability of evidence-based care and support.”

HRI has thrived under the leadership of Dr. Roy Cameron since 2012. An expert in impact-oriented science and Distinguished Professor Emeritus in the School of Public Health and Health Systems at the University of Waterloo, Dr. Cameron evolved HRI from a two-person team to a national institute that has attracted thought leaders from across the country. Driven by a spirit of cooperation and collaboration, HRI now partners with leading scientists, universities, clinicians and patients to improve and evaluate treatment outcomes in four priority areas: addiction, post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), concurrent disorders, and return to work.

For more information about HRI, visit https://www.homewoodresearch.org.

 

For more information, please contact:

Becky Rothwell
Communications Coordinator
Homewood Research Institute
BRothwell@hriresearch.com

Dr. Roy Cameron announces retirement from HRI

After a remarkable career as a nationally recognized leader in population health and impact-oriented science, Dr. Roy Cameron, Executive Director of HRI, has announced that he will retire on August 28, 2020.

Roy Cameron

Roy Cameron

Under Dr. Cameron’s leadership, HRI has grown from a two-person start-up to a national charity, attracting some of the country’s top researchers and thought leaders working to improve the lives of people experiencing mental illness and addiction. Today, HRI partners with leading scientists, universities, clinicians, and patients to improve treatment outcomes in five priority areas: addiction, post-traumatic stress disorder, concurrent disorders, return to work and evaluation research.

“When Roy joined HRI in 2012, we could not have imagined where he would take the organization in eight short years,” says Dr. Ron Schlegel, Director and Chair of the HRI Board.

“He has fostered a spirit of collaboration that has woven HRI into the national landscape and brought people together to drive change for Canadians living with mental illness and addiction. He has been especially effective in identifying and developing partnerships with other institutions. We are deeply grateful for his leadership and contributions.”

Dr. Cameron spent much of his academic career in the Faculty of Applied Health Sciences at the University of Waterloo, where he retains the title of distinguished professor emeritus in the School of Public Health and Health Systems. A former visiting scholar at Stanford University who studied clinical psychology at the University of Waterloo and interned at Duke University Medical Center, Dr. Cameron has long been recognized as a Canadian leader in understanding tobacco control programs and policies. He has worked with organizations including the Canadian Cancer Society, Canadian Institutes of Health Research (CIHR), Heart and Stroke Foundation and the Public Health Agency of Canada to establish and develop the field of population intervention research. He helped to develop the Canadian Tobacco Control Research Initiative as well as the Population Health Intervention Research Initiative for Canada. In 2007, he was one of just 10 scientists to receive the National Cancer Institute of Canada’s Diamond Jubilee Award, which recognizes researchers who have made outstanding contributions to cancer research in Canada over their careers.

Dr. Cameron has served on advisory boards and committees with the CIHR Institute for Cancer Research, the CIHR Institute for Population and Public Health, the National Cancer Institute of Canada, the Canadian Cancer Society and the Canadian Academy of Health Sciences. He is a Fellow of both the Canadian Academy of Health Sciences and the Society of Behavioral Medicine as well as an honorary life member of the Canadian Public Health Association.

“Dr. Cameron has been a pioneer at the nexus of research and practice in Canada,” says Dr. Martin Taylor, HRI Board Director and Executive Director of the Canadian Research Data Centre Network.

“In my experience, there’s a lot of rhetoric surrounding that relationship. Not many people have been able to make the connection tangibly real, but Roy is one of those people. His legacy is large, and he has carved a clear path for HRI and others who will better the health of Canadians through the continual improvement of policies and treatment services.”

The HRI team extends our sincere appreciation to Dr. Cameron for his outstanding leadership since 2012. The organization will carry forward the culture of cooperation and collective impact that Dr. Cameron has nurtured among team members and stakeholders as we move forward.

Best wishes for your retirement, Roy!

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Grant from the McConnell Foundation will advance digital mental health project

The McConnell Foundation logoThanks to the generous support of the McConnell Foundation, HRI will move forward with a project aimed at helping Canadians make the best use of digital mental health tools.

Previously, HRI announced the creation of a Framework to guide the development, evaluation, and regulation of digital mental health tools. In collaboration with experts from Harvard Medical School, the Framework for Evaluation of Mobile Apps for Youth Mental Health was designed to help decision makers determine which tools should be used and scaled with confidence in healthcare systems. While the Framework focuses on youth, it is also applicable to tools designed for adults.

Since its publication, the report has been widely distributed. Senator Stan Kutcher shared the report with all Canadian Senators and Members of Parliament as a background document to a Briefing Note as the country’s leaders consider how to address mental health needs of Canadians during the COVID-19 pandemic and beyond. It has also been shared with clinicians, researchers, universities, government agencies, and mental health treatment providers across Canada.

In June, the McConnell Foundation awarded $98,000 to HRI to enable this Framework to be put into action.

Specifically, HRI will use the Framework to conduct a scientific review of current digital therapies aimed at addressing a priority health domain. The team will then identify which digital therapies hold the most promise for helping people.

To broaden the impact of this work, the team will convene a wide range of stakeholders and mental health experts to draft recommendations that will help to guide decision makers as they work towards improving policies and the regulation of digital therapies in Canada.

HRI and the McConnell Foundation share an interest in creating an environment that promotes the use of digital therapies that are both safe and effective to improve access to mental health care in Canada. To achieve this, digital mental health tools must be evaluated as rigorously as other medical interventions. We are grateful to the McConnell Foundation for supporting our efforts to ensure that Canadians have access to high-quality digital therapies, backed by science.

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HRI trainees receive significant awards

HRI is committed to training the next generation of clinical researchers and scientists. Through our Trainee Program, we provide learning opportunities for graduate and post-doctoral students in the field of mental health and addiction research. Trainees work under the supervision of HRI Scientists in all areas of research.

Two HRI Trainees recently received significant awards:

Yarden Levy

Yarden Levy

Yarden Levy

Yarden Levy, a PhD student in the Research and Clinical Training program in the department of Psychology, Neuroscience and Behaviour at McMaster University, was the recipient of a Wilson Leadership Scholar Award. The Award recognizes undergraduate and graduate students poised to serve as Canada’s next generation of leaders. It cultivates leadership through a career development program that links students with mentors and experts to advance both personal and professional goals. Yarden was one of only three students accepted into the program this year.

Yarden’s thesis focuses on the use of neurofeedback training to reduce trauma symptoms in military members, veterans, and first responders with post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). As a Wilson Leader, Yarden will build critical skills aimed at bridging existing gaps between policy and decision-making in Canadian healthcare, with an ultimate aim to implement novel treatments that will help Canadians living with PTSD.

Bethany Easterbrook

Bethany Easterbrook

Bethany Easterbrook

McMaster University PhD student Bethany Easterbrook received the Frederick Banting and Charles Best Canada Graduate Scholarship Doctoral Award from the Canadian Institutes of Health Research (CIHR). The $105,000 award will support her research exploring moral injury in the Canadian Military.

Bethany holds a Master’s degree in Health Research Methodology from McMaster University and is currently a PhD student in the Neuroscience Graduate Program. Under the supervision of Homewood Research Chair in Mental Health and Trauma, Dr. Margaret McKinnon, Bethany is Principal Investigator of a study entitled Moral Injury and Mental Health Outcomes: Predictors and Risk Factors in the Canadian Military.

The study will examine the prevalence and severity of moral injury in the military, as well its potential predictors and impacts on mental health outcomes and treatment-seeking patterns. Findings could guide the development of optimal treatments to better help military members who experience a moral injury during service.

Congratulations to Yarden and Bethany on these well-deserved honours.

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2020 Darlene Walton Scholarship Award Announcement

We are pleased to announce that Isabella Romano is the recipient of this year’s Darlene Walton Scholarship Award, an award that supports students pursuing careers in the field of mental health and addiction research.

Isabella Romano

Isabella Romano

Isabella is an HRI Trainee and a PhD candidate in the School of Public Health and Health Systems at the University of Waterloo. Over the past two years, she has made significant contributions to evaluation studies related to tobacco use among patients receiving treatment for substance use disorder.

Specifically, Isabella explored how the introduction of a tobacco-free policy impacted tobacco use in patients. Using data collected by HRI’s Recovery Journey Project, she examined how exposure to the tobacco-free policy was linked to reductions in tobacco use both during and after treatment. Her findings were published in the Journal of Substance Abuse Treatment. A second paper will be published in the Journal of Addiction Medicine in the coming weeks.

Isabella also contributed to a follow-up study examining patient perceptions of the tobacco-free policy and their experiences receiving treatment within a tobacco-free setting. The study provided insights into behaviours and attitudes affecting tobacco use. It also identified strengths and weaknesses of the policy, as well as opportunities to further support patients who are trying to discontinue tobacco use.

Together, findings from these studies have informed areas for policy improvement at the study site (Homewood Health Centre in Guelph, Ontario). These findings are also relevant to other organizations interested in enhancing tobacco-free policies to benefit patients across treatment settings.

Congratulations, Isabella, and thank you for your important research contributions!

New funding will support research exploring impact of COVID-19 on mental health

James MacKillop

Dr. James MacKillop

HRI Senior Scientist, Dr. James MacKillop, has received $491,000 from the Canadian Institutes of Health Research (CIHR) for a study that will examine the impact of COVID-19 on mental health and substance use.

Dr. MacKillop is one of 16 researchers from McMaster University to be granted funding that will help Canada understand the impacts of COVID-19 on various aspects of healthcare – from diagnostics and therapeutics to patient management and mental well-being.

The funding is part of the Government of Canada’s COVID-19 Rapid Research Funding Opportunity, which aims to mobilize science to address the health challenges of the current global pandemic. 139 projects have been supported across the country, for a total of $109 million.

Dr. MacKillop is currently running a long-term study investigating patterns of change in mental health and substance use over time among a cohort of adults. Recently he added a new stream of data collection to explore changes following the legalization of cannabis. He will now add additional data collection to this study to see how COVID-19 impacts both mental wellness and substance use over a one-year period.

Click here to read the announcement from McMaster University outlining all COVID-19-related projects funded through the CIHR grants.

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A framework for rigorously evaluating digital mental health tools

Technology will play a vital role in addressing the worldwide need for better access to mental health services. And while new digital mental health tools are developed every day, decision makers struggle to determine which tools should be used and scaled with confidence in healthcare systems.

To help solve this problem, HRI has built a Framework to guide the development, evaluation, and regulation of top-quality digital mental health tools backed by solid science.

With funding from The RBC Foundation, HRI engaged faculty members from Harvard Medical School, including Yuri Quintana, Ph.D., Chief of the Division of Clinical Informatics at Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center (BIDMC), and John Torous, M.D., Chief of the Division of Digital Psychiatry at BIDMC, to design the Framework. Drawing on input from a distinguished panel of Canadian and international experts in medicine and mobile health, the team produced a groundbreaking report entitled Framework for Evaluation of Mobile Apps for Youth Mental Health. While the report focuses on youth, the Framework is applicable to tools designed for adults.

The Framework was informed by a previous project led by Dr. Quintana, entitled Youth Mental Health Apps in the Digital Age: A Scoping Review of Trends and Evaluations. That project generated a comprehensive report, which explores current trends in youth mental health and looks more closely at several popular mental health apps. The report identifies strengths and limitations of available frameworks for evaluating apps and demonstrates a clear need for the science-backed Framework that has now been developed.

Who benefits from this Framework?

“This Framework will be of high value to consumers, healthcare providers, government leaders, as well as to those who design, evaluate, or invest in mental health apps,” says Dr. Quintana, an expert in clinical informatics and digital health services.

“Equally important, it will pave the way for improvements in regulations and policies related to mental health apps that can help guide how systems are selected, implemented, monitored, and evaluated. This work will help Canada and other countries develop a more scientifically informed process for strategic funding decisions and roadmaps for youth mental health needs.”

Click here to view the full report and framework.

HRI aims to move this work forward in partnership with other organizations interested in digital mental health. For more information on partnering with us to advance this important work, email admin@homewoodresearch.org.

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Building the foundation for recovery monitoring in Ontario

Ontario recently launched Roadmap to Wellness: A Plan to Build Ontario’s Mental Health and Addictions System. The plan provides a clear path forward to improve mental health and addiction services and calls for a standardized approach to measuring performance of the current system – a call echoed by both the Auditor General and Addictions and Mental Health Ontario.

HRI is bringing experts together to answer that call.

On March 12, HRI invited key stakeholders from the mental health and addiction sector across Ontario to an exploratory workshop. The meeting was a crucial first step to co-creating a vision and exploring opportunities to advance recovery monitoring in Ontario.

Participants included addiction treatment providers from across the province, and representatives from key organizations, including:

  • The Mental Health and Addictions Centre of Excellence
  • Addiction and Mental Health Ontario
  • CAMH’s Provincial Support Services Program
  • ConnexOntario, and
  • Ontario Health

The group explored the feasibility of a province-wide data system that would help Ontario answer vital questions about its services: Are people getting better? Will proposed changes to care actually make a difference? Are investments in addiction care paying off?

A performance-measurement system would also enable:

  • Evidence-based improvements to care that will help people get better, sooner
  • More efficient treatment services so more people can access care
  • Improved cost efficiency in government spending

A foundational framework created by HRI

To open the meeting, HRI scientists Dr. Jean Costello and Dr. Brian Rush provided an overview of HRI’s Recovery Journey Project. The Project is a recovery-monitoring system for addiction treatment developed and tested over the past five years in partnership with Homewood Health.

Discussions followed about how such a system could be built upon for broader application. The group identified outstanding needs, available supports for implementing a province-wide system, the alignment of this initiative with provincial priorities, and next steps to build capacity for a system-level approach.

The group referenced performance-measurement systems currently in place in other healthcare areas — such as cancer treatment – that have generated invaluable data to guide improvements to care and ultimately, to save lives.

HRI is now exploring existing projects relevant to this initiative and seeking collaborative opportunities to advance this work in measuring outcomes on a broad scale.

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